by Natalie Babbit, published 1975
“I’m not exactly sure what I’d do, you know, but something interesting- something that’s all mine. Something that would make some kind of difference in the world.”
A young girl yearning to make a difference in the world leads us to the very heart of sacrifice – willing to help others because the consequences of not doing so were too great. This children’s book leads the reader to a fairly sophisticated understanding of moral choices. However, the book is not heavy handing because the setting is magical – a family that has accidentally discovered a ‘fountain of youth.’
Along with uncovering issues of choice, the book also explores the value of death in the structure of life. What would life be if we never died? What a profound inquiry to make. We take it for granted that we have a limited lifespan, but then when we encounter folks who have transcended that, there’s pause for thought. What are the implications.
There is great tenderness in the way this children’s book unfolds, despite it’s very weighty themes. The family it tender towards Winnie, and she ultimately understands their point of view. She grows through the process, and finds herself becoming a kinder, more loving part of her own family.
This children’s book could be easily read by any age, however, I feel that adolescents could most benefit from the theme. This children’s book is definitely in the category of ‘great literature for children.’